I live in Iowa so it’s inevitable that the months of January through March are pretty cold. We have days of beautiful fluffy snow and 30 degrees and we also have days of blustery wind with highs below zero (as I type this, it’s -6F outside). There’s no predictability and, for that reason, I’ve always said winter couples are a special kind of couple. There could be beautiful snow in their photos or it could be brown, leafless trees. It could be sunny and in the 20s or it could be a snowstorm that blocks interstate traffic and messes with guests traveling to the wedding.
Yes, there are many unpredictables during the rest of the year too (I’m not even talking rain; does anyone remember the derecho?!), but the chances of good weather are higher during the warmer seasons. I love and admire couples who choose winter wedding dates so much because their wedding day is truly stripped down to the love between them and the joy of their marriage, knowing it’s okay that some (rather big) things are out of their control. The benefit to this is that those same couples are brave and adventurous and trust me, even when it involves going outside in freezing temperatures, to get gorgeous photos.
I also have couples who have summer wedding days planned, but want their engagement photos to reflect a completely different season. Because it’s an engagement session and not a wedding, we have a lot more flexibility with scheduling so if a couple wants a snowy engagement session, I make a note on my end and then we keep our eyes on the forecast and stay in touch to try to get a date that works for all of us and that has white, clean snow and, if possible, low winds and double-digit temperatures.
Whether it’s a wedding or an engagement session, I have some tips for couples and for photographers to make it as comfortable and warm as possible.
Hands. The first place cold shows up visually in photos is in the hands. When hands are clenched, it’s an instant giveaway that someone is cold and uncomfortable. The goal of snowy or cold photos is to make them look beautiful and comfortable. So the first tip is simple and free: shoulders relaxed; hands relaxed.
Hand and Toe Warmers. For engagement sessions, it’s easy to incorporate things like boots or scarves or hats in the photos. For weddings, it’s a little trickier because you want the full look of your wedding day style to be on display. But either way, you can slip toe warmers in your boots or shoes and no one can see them. Hand warmers can be kept in coat pockets to hold onto during the photo warm-up breaks.
Gloves. For clients, I recommend having a really warm pair of gloves or mittens along to throw on to warm up. For me, I wear fingerless gloves while photographing since I need my fingers uncovered for my touchscreen, buttons, and dials on my camera.
Boots & wool socks. Men can’t hide their shoes like women can under gowns so I recommend thick wool socks for the guys (try them on with your shoes to make sure you are sized up enough to accommodate for the thickness). For the ladies, I recommend both wool socks and snow boots. Especially with gowns that have larger skirt bottoms (ballgowns, mermaids, a-lines, etc), you can easily wear boots the entire time we are outside without anyone seeing. Bridesmaids can also do this if they have long, full dresses. (Depending on the gown style, I’ve even had some women wear yoga pants undetected underneath!)
Hats or earmuffs. No one wants their hair to get messed up, but earmuffs are much more gentle on all gender’s hair styles. There’s also the option to bring along cute winter hats and save them for the end of an engagement session, when the cold is really settling into the bones, and finish with hats on! If neither of those are an option, most coat hoods are loose enough to be able to pull up without messing up hair.
Blankets. Blankets are so easy to throw over shoulders to warm up and are a one-size-fits-all so multiple people (like the wedding party) can huddle together in warmth. Cute blankets that coordinate with either the wedding colors or engagement outfits can also be used in the pictures for a little cuddle sesh. If you only bring one item from this list, a blanket is the easiest and most multi-use.
Coats. Coats are not off-limits! Thick puffer coats are great to have right off-camera to throw on to warm up, but beautiful coordinating coats (like Catie’s in the picture below) can be worn in the photos as part of an outfit!
Scarves, shawls, and fur stoles. This New Year’s Eve wedding pictured below was soooo cold! I do my absolute best to convey the plan before we go outside (especially for group photos where there are more people to coordinate) and then when we get outside, I shoot as quickly as possible. Even so, it’s cold. Having scarves, shawls, or fur stoles helps keep cold shoulders a little bit warmer while still looking super classy and coordinated.
While in most shots, even other walking shots, I was able to keep Erin’s boots hidden, I’m including this photo below to show that even if the reality of your footwear appears in a picture, it’s okay! The goal is to capture the most beautiful version of reality and it’s okay if that includes a peek of a snow boot!
I hope this is helpful! If you want to see more snowy, cold weddings and engagements for inspiration, follow these links: